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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

Daniel Book of

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This important and in many respects remarkable book takes its name not only from the principal person in it, but also and chiefly from him as its real author; there being no doubt whatever that, as the book itself testifies, it was composed by Daniel (comp.;;; ).

The book of Daniel divides itself into two parts, historical (Daniel 1-6) and prophetic (Daniel 7-12), arranged respectively in chronological order. Its object is by no means to give a summary historical account of the period of the exile, or of the life of Daniel himself, since it contains only a few isolated points both as to historical facts and prophetic revelations. But the plan or tendency which so consistently runs through the whole book, is of a far different character; it is to show the extraordinary and wonderful means which the Lord made use of, in a period of the deepest misery, when the theocracy seemed dissolved and fast approaching its extinction, to afford assistance to his people, proving to them that he had not entirely forsaken them, and making them sensible of the fact, that His merciful presence still continued to dwell with them, even without the Temple and beyond the Land of Promise.

The wonders related in Daniel (Daniel 1-6) are thus mostly of a peculiar, prominent, and striking character, and resemble in many respects those performed of old time in Egypt. Their divine tendency was, on the one hand, to lead the heathen power, which proudly fancied itself to be the conqueror of the theocracy, to the acknowledgment that there was an essential difference between the world and the kingdom of God; and, on the other, to impress degenerate and callous Israel with the full conviction, that the power of God was still the same as it was of old in Egypt.

The following are the essential features of the prophetic tenor of the book of Daniel, while the visions in Daniel 2, 7, together with their different symbols, may be considered as embodying the leading notion of the whole. The development of the whole of the heathen power, until the completion and glorification of the kingdom of God, appeared to the prophet in the shape of four powers of the world, each successive power always surpassing the preceding in might and strength, namely, the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman. The kingdom of God proves itself conqueror of them all: a power which alone is everlasting, and showing itself in its utmost glorification in the appearance of the Messiah, as Judge and Lord of the world. Until the coming of the Messiah, the people of God have yet to go through a period of heavy trials. That period is particularly described, Daniel 8, 11, in the struggles of the Maccabean time, illustrative of the last and heaviest combats which the kingdom of God would have to endure. The period until the appearance of the Messiah is a fixed and sacred number: seventy weeks of years (Daniel 9). After the lapse of that period ensues the death of the Messiah; the expiation of the people is realized; true justice is revealed, but Jerusalem and the Temple are in punishment given up to destruction. The true rise from this fall and corruption ensues only at the end of time, in the general resurrection (Daniel 12).

The authenticity of the book has frequently been called in question. The oldest known opponent of it is the heathen philosopher Porphyry, in the third century of the Christian era. He found no successor in his views until the time of the English Deists, when Collins attempted to attack the authenticity of Daniel, as was done by Semler in Germany. In later times its authenticity has been disputed by a number of German critics, who have made the most elaborate attacks against it.

The objections of these writers have been fully met and confuted. They rest, to a great extent, partly on historical errors, partly on the want of a sound exegesis, and, lastly, on the perversion of a few passages in the text. Thus it has turned out that several of the arguments have led to a far different and even opposite result from what was originally meant, namely, to the defense of the authenticity of the book. The existence, ex. gr., of a king Darius of the Medians, mentioned in Daniel 6, is a thorough historical fact; and the very circumstance that such an insignificant prince, eclipsed as his name was by the splendor of Cyrus, and therefore unnoticed in the fabulous and historical chronicles of Persia, should be known and mentioned in this book, is in itself a proof of the high historical authority of Daniel.

The following are the more important of the arguments which evidence the genuineness of the book.

1. The existence and authority of the book and most decidedly testified by the New Testament. Christ himself refers to it (), and gives himself (in virtue of the expression in ) the name of Son of Man; while the Apostles repeatedly appeal to it as an authority (ex. gr.,;; , sq.).

2. The period of the exile would be altogether incomprehensible without the existence of a man like Daniel, exercising great influence upon his own people, and whose return to Palestine was effected by means of his high station in the state, as well as through the peculiar assistance of God with which he was favored. Without this assumption, it is impossible to explain the continued state of independence of the people of God during that period, or to account for the interest which Cyrus took in their affairs. The exile and its termination are indicative of uncommon acts of God towards highly-gifted and favored men; and the appearance of such a man as Daniel is described in that book to have been, is an indispensable requisite for the right understanding of this portion of the Jewish history.

3. An important hint of the existence of the book in the time of Alexander is found in Josephus, Antiq., xi. 8, 4, according to which the prophecies of Daniel had been pointed out to that king on his entrance into Jerusalem.

4. The first book of the Maccabees, which is almost contemporary with the events related in it, not only pre-supposes the existence of the book of Daniel, but actually betrays acquaintance with the Alexandrian version of the same (; comp.;; comp. Daniel 3)—a proof that the book must have been written long before that period.

5. The reception of the book into the canon is also an evidence of its authenticity. In the Maccabean age the canon had long been completed and closed; but even doubting that point, it is not likely that, at a time when so much scrupulous adherence was shown towards all that was hallowed by time and old usage, and when Scriptural literature was already flourishing—it is not probable, we say, that a production then recent should have been raised to the rank of a canonical book.

6. We have an important testimony for the authenticity of the book in;; . Daniel is there represented as an unusual character, as a model of justice and wisdom, to whom had been allotted superior divine insight and revelation. This sketch perfectly agrees with that contained in our book.

7. The book betrays such an intimate acquaintance with Chaldean manners, customs, history, and religion, as none but a contemporary writer could fairly be supposed to possess. Thus, ex. gr., the description of the Chaldean Magians and their regulations perfectly agrees with the accounts of the classics respecting them. The account of the illness and insanity of Nebuchadnezzar is confirmed by Berosus. The edict of Darius the Mede (Daniel 5) may be satisfactorily explained from the notions peculiar to the Medo-Persian religion, and the importance attached in it to the king, who was considered as a sort of incarnate deity.

8. The religious views, the ardent belief in the Messiah, the purity of that belief, the absence of all the notions and ceremonial practices of later Judaism, etc., the agreement of the book in these respects with the genuine prophetic books, and more especially with the prophets in and after the exile—all this testifies to the genuineness of Daniel.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Daniel Book of'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature".

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